Spurrier prepping No. 24 Gamecocks for big chance
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) It wasn't that long ago No. 24 South Carolina was the trendy pick to win the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division, a role that flipped to No. 6 Georgia after college football's opening weekend.
''So a lot can change, as we all know, in two or three weeks,'' Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said.
Spurrier and the Gamecocks (1-1, 0-1 SEC) hope to flip the script one more time and regain the favorite's role early in the season when they face the Bulldogs on Saturday.
Georgia (1-0, 0-0) has not played since it's statement-making opening game two weeks ago when Todd Gurley ran for a 198 yards and scored four touchdowns, including one on a kickoff return, to down No. 23 Clemson 45-21.
That was just two days after South Carolina's 52-28 loss to No. 7 Texas A&M after entering as a double-digit favorite. The Gamecocks know that few expect them to come out on top in this one.
''We were favorites against A&M and we lost, so I don't listen to what they say,'' Gamecocks quarterback Dylan Thompson said.
South Carolina seemed in free fall after losing to the Aggies, its highly regarded offensive line unable to open holes and its rebuilt defensive front - the Gamecocks lost three of our line starters including No. 1 NFL draft pick Jadeveon Clowney - couldn't generate any pressure.
Things changed last week in a 33-23 victory over East Carolina, a contest where the Gamecocks rallied from a 13-7 deficit. Their offensive line held firm and opened enough holes for star runner Mike Davis to gain 101 yards and two touchdowns.
The defense steadied itself after a bad start, giving up 195 yards to the Pirates the first 18 minutes and just 258 yards the rest of the way. The Gamecocks got a blocked field goal, their first in three years, and two interceptions.
The offense showed its strength at the end, chewing up nearly 11 of the game's final 12 minutes on its final drive with East Carolina's offense waiting for the chance to get back on the field that came too late.
Spurrier was encouraged by the performance and believes it's a critical step toward getting to the level where championship hopes abide.
''We're coaching as hard as we can, offense, defense, special teams, and hopefully it will start coming together,'' he said.
Left guard A.J. Cann acknowledged the team's confidence was rattled after falling to Texas A&M. Things improved with last week's win and hopes are high the Gamecocks can hang with Georgia this weekend.
''It was important to get that first win,'' he said. ''It felt good. But this Georgia game is very important for us too.''
A big job for South Carolina's defense is slowing down Gurley, who broke free in the second half to lead the Bulldogs over Clemson. Gurley had just 39 yards rushing his freshman season at South Carolina two years ago in Georgia's 35-7 loss. Last year, Gurley was a big part of a 41-30 victory with 132 yards and a touchdown.
Gurley and the Bulldogs are chomping at the bit to return to the field after a bye week and back up their first-game performance.
''There's also the motivation to just go out and play again. It was kind of weird not having a game last week, but we're ready to get back out there and get in the groove of games,'' Georgia center David Andrews said.
South Carolina hasn't started 0-2 in SEC play since 2008 and Spurrier understands how difficult it would be to climb out of such a hole and reach the SEC title game as East champions.
''We're believing we can play a lot better,'' Spurrier said, ''but we need to go do it on the field and this would be a good week to show that.''